Oliver Cromwell and his son Richard – lessons for Uganda

Queen Elizabeth I of England who worked well with parliament was succeeded by James I who had been king of Scotland. He insisted he was king by divine right and rejected the English tradition of parliamentary government. He believed kings ruled by the will of God and were responsible only to God.

As expected, opposition to the king grew in parliament in response to James’ extreme demands especially in financial matters.

James I was succeeded by his son Charles I who was even more inflexible. Charles wanted to levy taxes without parliament’s approval which was rejected. To assert itself, parliament passed the Petition of Right, insisting that the king was subject to the law of the land and could not raise taxes without parliament’s approval, impose forced loans on the English people, etc.

The relations between the king and parliament deteriorated to the extent that a civil war occurred. During the war the king was joined by some parliamentarians and other royalists known as Cavaliers. Those parliamentarians and others who opposed the king – the Roundheads – were led by Oliver Cromwell. The king was defeated, tried and executed.

A new government under the Commonwealth was established under Cromwell. The Commonwealth tried to reestablish order in England. Being puritan, Cromwell imposed restrictions on Anglicans and Roman Catholics. He also enforced public morality – closing theatres, prohibiting dancing and requiring strict observance of the Sabbath. He also engaged in costly wars.

At home in England, the demands for economic and political rights were met with brutal force. Cromwell crushed the radicals as he had earlier crushed the royalists. Eventually parliament was dissolved. Army leaders drafted a new constitution giving authority to Cromwell as lord protector which essentially was a one-man rule supported by the army. Cromwell became very unpopular. Here we see parallels with Museveni.

When he died in 1658, Cromwell was succeeded by his son, Richard, who was even more unpopular and weak. He resigned in less than one year, paving the way for a military takeover. Here is a potential lesson for Uganda.

The political developments in Uganda should be watched and studied very carefully. The elimination of possible successors to Museveni began with Bukenya followed by other political heavyweights in NRM. Now we see UPDF generals demanding that Amama Mbabazi step down. Are they demanding Mbabazi’s resignation as citizens or as army generals? Who are these generals – not only the area where they come from but also on whose side they are? In Uganda generals have not been behaving like this until now. Where is the Commander-in- Chief in all this? This is an unusual situation. Is the path to power being paved for Museveni’s son or are the generals acting in their own interest with or without tacit support of the Commander-in-Chief?

If either scenario is valid – that is Museveni’s son as next president or the military government – what do we Ugandans think? This is the time for us to speak up.

For me, we have had enough of military regimes – directly or indirectly. Let us work hard for the restoration of democracy, liberty and justice for all.

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